Wednesday, 16 April 2008

It means nothing to me....

Finally back! I've been offline for a week now having my laptop detoxed...

Our weekend was non-stop by our standards. Entertained at home on Friday with a shrimp starter and a fish main course.
On Saturday I mixed up a dough for Michael's Foccacia Bread (see below). This was going to be the best ever. I returned from the market to add the topping and "ping", the oven door latch broke. Now this is the second time in 9 years. Ok so it doesn't happen every day, but there is a basic design flaw with this part. It is such a crappy design. I expect more from Gaggenau. Ordering a new part was relatively painless though except for the €19 charge!!! More on this later...Carola had to run the bread over to the neighbors house to use their oven. 20 minutes later and we were serving up delicious, hot Foccacia with pasta and tomato sauce.
Saturday evening we went to a friends 40th birthday. Genius! The party was organised in an indoor ski centre. We skiied for 4 hours, worked up a big appetite and started on the apres-ski. One traditional German dinner (BIG and meaty) and many beers later we stumbled into a taxi for home.
Next day, weather was finally springlike. We went to our pool with the boys to work out some of the excess from the night before. However, the repairs weren't quite finished so only the 50m pool was open. Way too cool to stay long. We had a hot shower and detoured to Stadtwald to enjoy the sun. Kicked around for an hour or so and then back home to get ready for the weekend finale.
We don't go to concerts as often as we used to. With two boys to look after we haven't got time. But we made an exception on Sunday night to see Midge Ure. Now I've liked Midge for years, and most of the bands he has played in, but our paths never crossed on the tour circuit. Back in the day, when I collected singles (that's 45's) I even bought a couple of his tracks: Visage-Fade to Grey (still sounds good) and Ultravox-Vienna. Midge (God! It sounds like I actually know him) is actually up in that pantheon of distinguished people I admire and respect. Right up there with John Peel, Pat Kane and Jools Holland. If he were politically inclined I'd vote for him tomorrow (I don't care which party! I just trust him more, because he is demonstrably more trustworthy than the current incumbents). The concert was excellent. An energetic acoustic set with plenty of familiar hits and a few more recent songs. Unusually, for Krefeld, the crowd were very enthusiastic. Maybe a reflection of the energy and passion Midge displayed. A sure sign of a great artist is one who has time to meet fans after the show and just be himself. A very normal bloke with a very exceptional talent.

A mention also to the young chap in support. Richard John Thompson. A very accomplished set, great guitar work and quite a distinctive style. I may be slightly biased because he comes from the best place on Earth but I look forward to hearing more from RJT...
Check out:
If you get the chance to see either of these talents DO IT!
Take the person you love most and get off myspace and enjoy realspace!

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Luchtime Attraction

Mmmm...Lunch was great!
We're beginning to attract attention in the cafeteria...
Carola made a small salad with a mustard dressing and it was our "oohs" and "aahs" which got us noticed...
We laughed, maybe a little too much!

Tonight I've cooked chicken wings. We'll have them with salad and new potatoes tomorrow.
I really only started eating wings when I went to Detroit and snacked on them every other day.
I quickly got the hang of Buffalo Wings once I was back to Germany, but we both prefer a more oriental taste so I've experimented with various soy-sauced based concoctions.

Oyster Orange Soy Sauce No.3 (No.2 minus 5 spice)
1 kilo Chicken Wings minus tips (cut at the joint with a robust knife or ask your Butcher to do it).
Bye the way this is supper and lunch tomorrow for both of us!
Juice of 1 freshly squeezed orange...
(Look! Use carton juice if you have it in the fridge, but I had fresh oranges to use up...)
2 Tablespoons Oyster Sauce
1 Tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce
2 teaspoons of honey or sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
50g Butter

This is dead easy and very tasty.

Prepare wings and put them on a baking tray in a hot oven (200C) for 10 minutes.
This will help drain much of the fat from the meat.
Once they begin to puff-up and lose fat, take them out put the wings in a bowl and drain off the fat from the tray.

Mix the OJ, oyster and soy sauce and honey in a small saucepan. Stir and simmer until the mix begins to thicken.
Add chili and butter and melt...

Pour this mix over the wings and stir to ensure the wings have a good coating.
Keep any excess sauce for later.

Put the wings back on the tray, into the oven for another 10 minutes.

Out once more and baste with the remainder of the sauce.

Back in the oven for another 10 minutes until the wings are dark and sticky.

These are a milder and less overtly oriental version than No.5 (see above)


Monday, 7 April 2008

Romantic Lunch

The point of all this is that one of the most important secrets must be preparing food and eating it together.
Not for a special occasion but regularly.

For a change on Sunday, I made a Ratatouille and Black-eyed beans with Mango Pickle.
Our boys didn't like the beans much but the Ratatouille was a revelation.

I used a recipe inspired by Roopa Gulati, Pan Fried Ratatouille.
I was attracted because it substitutes Coriander leaf for the usual Rosemary.
I don't dislike Rosemary but it does seems to overpower the dish sometimes (I could use less, I suppose?). I love Coriander!

I followed Roopa's recipe line for line but added the juice of a full-sized lemon. I skipped the chili as it's too strong for the boys, left out the saffron and left in the tomato seeds (why take them out?).

As I mentioned, we enjoyed it, but the boys passed on the beans.

The point of all this? We finished off the leftovers for lunch at work today. Of course we enjoyed the food, but after a hectic morning the half hour we stole to eat together was a highspot in my day (hopefully OUR day!).

So I was inspired when later this evening, after a lovely supper of Tandori Chicken, new potatoes, salad and the last of the ratatouille, Carola asked what we'd have for lunch tomorrow. Aaagrh! No leftovers!!!

I half thought about just grabbing a sandwich for lunch, but then I remembered how pleasant it had been sitting and eating the good food we had prepared.

So I made a quick Penne Carbonara!

2 small cups of Penne pasta
1 medium onion
50g diced bacon
50ml cream
1 tablespoon grated cheese (Emmental)

Cook the pasta according to instructions (11-12 minutes for dry pasta), add a splash of oil to stop the pasta sticking. Add salt to taste.

Meanwhile. Dice the onion and fry in oil for 3-4 minutes. Add the diced bacon and continue frying for another 3-4 minutes.
Add cream, simmer. Add cheese and stir, if the sauce seems too thick add a little more cream. the sauce should coat the penne easily and not be too gooey.

Add the penne to the the sauce stir to coat evenly.

I deposited the mix into a microwave proof container and allowed to cool before putting on the lid.

Looking forward to lunch tomorrow...

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Best Foccacia Recipe

Racked with guilt for posting my feeble customised ALDI pizza base (though it tasted great!), I felt that I should share my Best Foccacia Recipe.
After trying a few recipes I stumbled across Michael's Foccacia Bread at allrecipes,

I made a few changes, mainly in proportions of liquid to flour (I used 400g of plain flour to 200ml of water and oil) also a lot less salt, but the basic recipe and timing are just right for producing a soft, yeasty bread that is fantastic with anything vaguely Mediterranean.

Here's how it looked...

Homemade Pizza

This is the ultra fast version!
Lets not get precious here. I love good food, but I work 5 days a week and we sometimes need to take shortcuts...
I use a retail pizza base. Here in Germany I use the ALDI version. This comes with a jar of tasty tomato paste so it's even less work.
Heat the oven, roll the base onto a baking tray (it comes with its own baking sheet) and spread on the tomato.
Now for the fresh ingredients which make it as special as you want.
I added oregano, onion, red and yellow capsicum, Turkey Salami and speck (tiny bacon cubes), topped off with a sprinkle of Emmental cheese.
15 minutes later we've a fresh, tasty lunch, perfect for a busy Saturday

Viva Varier!

I've owned two Stokke chairs since a bad back put me in hospital for a week over ten years ago. Last week I finally decided to contact the company for a couple of replacement fasteners which went missing during a move. I was puzzled that my "classic" Thatsit chair was no longer featured on their website which is now focused on stuff for kids. After an email to their contact address, I received a reply informing me that they had split the company and that my chair could now be found at:
I'm not sure why they split but the service was great and my parts arrived this week.
I use the chairs, a Thatsit and Variable Balans, daily. They help to keep my back and stomach fit while I work (imagine exercise while sitting!). They weren't cheap, but they still look good and they delivered great results (no more back pain).